Wednesday marks the anniversary of President Obama’s reelection, but it’s unlikely that the White House will be celebrating.
Gallup on Tuesday showed the president’s job approval rating dropping to 39 percent, within 1 point of its all-time nadir, recorded in 2011.
His basic truthfulness has been questioned in an unprecedented way in relation to his pledge that people who liked their existing health plans could keep them.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who was beaten soundly by Obama a year ago, took shots at the president on “Meet the Press” over the weekend. Romney chided Obama’s “dishonesty” and said his second term is “in peril.”
Frustrations, meanwhile, have been showing among the administration and its supporters.
On Sunday, noted bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel (and the brother of former White House chief of staff, now Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel) got into a shouting match on “Fox News Sunday” defending the law.
“The insurance industry decides how to make money. When the private companies decide that they’re going to drop people or put them in the exchange, you decide to blame President Obama,” Emanuel told host Chris Wallace. “He is not responsible for that.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney also grew annoyed at Monday’s press briefing, saying “I give up” at one point during a heated exchange with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl over the continuing problems with HealthCare.gov.
The broader problem for Obama is the perception that the first year of his second term has been mired in Washington dysfunction. Controversies, ranging from the IRS to spying, have damaged Obama’s political standing.
Even if the paralysis is not of his own making, it threatens to sully his reputation and doom his chances of making legislative progress on his agenda. There is little chance that the landscape will change soon.
Moreover, even some who are supportive of the White House fret about the imbroglio over the insurance exchanges.
“This was always going to be difficult, but I think the White House did not manage expectations well,” said Lanny Davis, a former adviser to President Clinton and a contributor to The Hill.
“It goes to what I’ve said before: They’ve got a really good president, with really good policies, but they don’t communicate well.”
Still, the White House bristles at the idea that no progress has been made since Obama won reelection.
Pressed on whether he could point to any tangible accomplishments in the last 12 months during the White House briefing on Tuesday, Carney chuckled and replied, “Yes, I certainly can.”
“I would say that a goal that probably most people in this room, and certainly everybody in Washington said would never happen, which is that we would make permanent tax cuts for the middle class and raise rates on millionaires and billionaires, happened on the first of the year,” Carney said, alluding to the deal that averted the possibility of the nation toppling over the fiscal cliff.
Carney went on to claim that momentum had been generated on immigration reform, a top priority for Obama in a second term.
“We’re not there yet, but we have an enormous amount of progress that we can point to,” he said.
Still, Obama urged Congress to send a bill to his desk within a few months of his State of the Union address. Many Democrats and Republicans believe immigration reform is dead, a tough blow for an administration that failed to convince lawmakers to pass a gun control bill earlier this year.
Carney highlighted what he called the “not insignificant fact” that, while Syria “remains horrific, I can stand here today and say that the Syrian regime is destroying chemical weapons that it did not even acknowledge existed a month ago.”
“That’s a big deal,” he added.
A former senior administration official said there has been “a lot of stuff that doesn’t get attention,” but for which the president should get credit, like the continued growth of the economy.
Politically, the former official added, Obama had proven that he would not buckle to the Tea Party’s demands during the government shutdown.
“He had to take the gloves off,” the former official said. “That’s huge.”
The latter point was emphasized by Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.
“I don’t think, after that confrontation, that we will see another attempt [from the Republicans] to play roulette with the full faith and credit of the United States,” he said.
“That was a very important moment for him, and a very important moment for the presidency.”
Shrum said the withdrawal from Afghanistan was continuing apace, as was the program of drone strikes against suspected militants in that region. Shrum added that he is “amazed that so little attention had been paid to the chemical disarmament of Syria.”
Whether the president can achieve meaningful goals in the next 12 months or so is also an open question.
“Could you see a grand bargain happening? You could, but I wouldn’t bet the house on it,” said Democratic strategist Chris Lehane. “Could there be immigration reform? There could but, again, if there was an over/under, I’d take the under on that.”
“It’s absolutely possible. Is it probable? I don’t know,” one former White House official said, regarding the prospects for immigration reform.
Republicans, meanwhile, insist the president is on a downward trajectory that is likely only to accelerate.
“It’s a complete waste,” said John Feehery, a Republican strategist who is a columnist for The Hill, referring to the president’s second term. “I don’t think it gets much better for him. He’s going to be spending the rest of his time trying to defend ObamaCare.”
“The only thing his presidency is going to be remembered by is ObamaCare,” Feehery added. “They originally thought it was great, and now it’s a complete disaster.”
Democrats contend that the problems now being experienced will seem insignificant set against a law that they insist will be Obama’s most important and enduring achievement.
“At some level, the White House lost control of the narrative on this. They, for whatever reason, continue to be playing defense on the subject,” said Lehane.
But, he added, “long term, it’s a marathon not a sprint. A year from now; five years from now; 10 years from now, the Democratic Party and the president are going to be seen as on the right side of history.”